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Printing Industries of America Challenges Google on Paperless Initiative

Press release from the issuing company

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Printing Industries of America's President and CEO, Michael Makin encouraged the U.S. printing industry to reject a call by Google to "Go Paperless in 2013." The following message from Michael Makin has been sent to the Printing Industries of America membership.

Dear Members:

Once again our industry is under attack, and this time it is from Google, which has launched an initiative titled "Go Paperless in 2013." It is joined in this effort by a number of digital companies which clearly have a vested interest in a non-paper communications stream.Dear Members:

Needless to say we find such a proposal ridiculous and an insult to the almost one million Americans who owe their livelihood to our industry.

In an open letter to Google CEO Larry Page and Chairman Eric Schmidt today, I challenged Google on its self-righteous environmental stance and noted that our industry has long led the way in utilizing sustainable processes. The primary raw material for printing is paper, which comes from trees, which are a renewable resource—so renewable that today our country has 20 percent more trees than it did on the first Earth Day, which was held more than 40 years ago.

Printing is the only medium with a one-time carbon footprint—all other media require energy every time they are viewed. Electronic devices, which Google produces, for example, require the mining and refining of dozens of minerals and metals, as well as the use of plastics, hydrocarbon solvents, and other non-renewable resources. Moreover 50–80 percent of electronic waste collected for recycling is shipped overseas and is often unsafely dismantled. For Google to call for a paperless world is hypocritical to say the least.

Regrettably, sentiments like those espoused by Google (and Toshiba, which backed down last year) are shared by others. This is why Printing Industries of America has spent time and resources putting together a tool that can be used to dispel the many misconceptions about our industry.

This campaign is called The Value of Print. It contains a flip-book that can be used by anyone to understand the issues and dispel the myths. It has four sections: Misconceptions, which gives responses to the common misconceptions about print; Effectiveness, which gives statistics on how print is an effective part of the marketing mix and how people still prefer print; By the Numbers, which discusses the importance of the industry and its large economic footprint; and Resources, which lists websites where more information on the subject can be found. You can view more on the flip-book at www.printing.org/valueofprint.

We also have a mobile app that provides a live RSS feed with the most up-to-date facts and statistics to support print’s effectiveness, supported facts to respond to misconceptions and confirm print’s effectiveness, and a searchable 2011 Print Market Atlas. The market atlas feature allows users to look at print statistics by selecting a location—national, state, or region. They can then look at an overview of the chosen location with shipments, establishments, and employment. Each of these overviews will allow for filtering by market segment and printing process. The results are displayed in a chart or graph format, whichever the user prefers.

To download the app, you can go to your respective mobile app site today or visit http://value.printing.org/page/10574#mobile.

Being a part of this great industry, we can’t sit back and allow companies like Google to put information out there that is not based on facts. We are encouraging everyone to view a copy of the flip-book and help spread the true message about print. As I posed the question to the CEO of Google, how would he feel if the almost 1 million workers in our industry encouraged their family and friends to go “Google-Less” in 2013?



Michael Makin
President & CEO
Printing Industries of America


By Stan Najmr on Jan 10, 2013

Google is not questioning the value of print. Google’s initiative is called “Paperless Office”. Printed paper as a carrier of information lost to digital long time ago. Whatever you read on the paper today is already obsolete. Paper is slow, inflexible, cost of sharing paper information is very high and speed of delivery can’t match digital means. Google, Fujitsu and many others rightly realized that paper in the office environment does not bring any benefits. Faxing any information today is a waste of resources. Making paper copies is waste of resources. Creation of paper phone books, maps and office forms is also wasting time and resources. Printing Industries of America has enough data supporting above facts. There is no doubt that general public benefits from digital information. Removal of paper from offices around the world will also remove obsolete and slow processes. Printing Industries of America should select a different topic to be concerned about. There are many to choose from.
Let’s say we will go “Google-Less” in 2013. We will drive around without GPS, we will try to look up information in obsolete books and write it on the paper so we can support paper as a medium. We can take it even further and stop using any medium in need of electricity. How many people would join this silly initiative?
Google just invested $200M into alternative energy projects. Printing Industries of America want us to use their flip book to learn about “Value of Print” or load application so we can scan data showing printing industries in troubles. Are you serious?
Unless this is just another useless opportunity for PR at any cost allow me to offer another initiative.
Printing Industries of America should establish friendly relations not only with Google but also with other companies like Google and Yahoo. There are valuable benefits print brings to global community. The real problem is missing representation of the printing establishment in the digital design stage. Print is neglected because of fears of future. Yet, knowledge accumulated over decades of digital printing, can be useful to companies like Google. Print can do much more than just office forms. Printing Industries of America need a fresh look on opportunities opening right now. The initiative should show existing printing enterprises how to take advantage of digital world and expand instead of closing their operations. Printing Industries of America should also work with manufacturers of the printing equipment and show them what is required for new type of print operations. Printing Industries of America can be a champion instead of complainer. One book is not enough.

Are you ready for a bigger challenge?


By John Clifford on Jan 10, 2013

Ah, but Google IS saying that going "paperless" is an environmental issue. That's what the printing industry is calling them out on. We in print (at least not me) are saying that we should throw away our electronics. We just hate it when the bogus argument of "save a tree" is used. Talk about timeliness of information, speed of information, etc. all you want, just don't lie to the public that they should feel good because they're saving a tree. Trees for paper are a farmed product. Why not say save corn stalks, eat beef? Farmed products are by nature sustainable. The fossil fuels and minerals that run our electronics are not. THAT'S THE FACT.

For my own part, I've been involved in MANY initiatives to utilize electronics and move communications forward. From eBooks to online magazines, etc., but I never did it to "save trees" but to advance the way we get information.


By Erik Nikkanen on Jan 10, 2013

In the last few years I have become much more positive about the future energy supplies. There are a lot of development efforts aimed at making low cost electricity that does not produce CO2. Even Landa is aiming at doing this with his nano technology to extract energy from ambient temperature air or substances and convert it to electricity.

One of these technologies that is not really so new but is new to the general public is energy from Thorium. It seems that it will provide environmentally safe, operationally safe, low cost electricity for a very long time.

When such low cost electrical energy is available, this changes the whole equation between digital forms of communication and printed communications.

Using electronic media will not be environmentally negative because the electricity it uses will not be produced with fossil fuels. On the other hand, paper and printed paper will still need to be transported around through it whole life cycle and transportation methods will still need fossil fuels for quite some time, .

The issue is NOT about trees. It is about the impact of the generation and use of energy on the whole system needed for each of these media. In the long run, which now a days is becoming a much shorter time period, printing will not be viewed so well from the stand point of cost and environmental impact. Sorry but the equation is changing.


By Stan Najmr on Jan 10, 2013

“Deforestation during the Roman period was a result of the geographical expansion of the Roman Empire, with its increased population, large-scale agriculture, and unprecedented economic development. .. Rome drove human development in Western Europe and was a leading contributor the deforestation around the Mediterranean.” (Wikipedia) John says: “Farmed products are by nature sustainable.”

Google is pointing out a waste. It does not matter if we farm or not. When we waste we are creating a problem. Half of so called “farmed products” get wasted globally. Google is trying to show not necessary office behavior of wasting not only paper but also time and energy. If your concern is fuel, fuel is needed to cut down trees, load them and transport them. Electricity and fuel are used in paper mills and so on. Farmed products with many years from seedlings to harvest impact environment and create uniformity which may not fit the local area. If you visit Mediterranean today you will still see large areas without forests. What is so wrong with saving trees? Why printing industries can’t save trees also? I am not buying your argument about trees as farmed products, John. There are only few countries in the world with such a luxury. Smaller countries know that replacing ecosystems with “farmed trees” is not a good idea. I will stop right here because I am trying to point out something else.

I feel the entire printing industry is waiting on the train which left the station.

In 2012 many state agencies in the USA implemented paperless office already. I will use MassHealth as an example. MassHealth requires only digital transfer for all claims. All offices load the web page, fill information on secure web site, attach documents and compensation is deposited electronically to different bank accounts. We can scream about value of print but no office will listen. When paper forms were used it took over 4 weeks to process claims. If mailed claim was lost in the mailing system, nobody knew. This required additional task of managing unreliable delivery. Such process alone was quite frustrating because both sides had no clue about missing paperwork. It takes only a week to process a paperless claim today. Every entered claim can be checked anytime on the web site and the processing is updated live without any unreliable link in between. What kind of value print has here? Print became obsolete and was replaced by a better delivery method.

Print has to move into a space where it is needed and companies like Google may be a great help and inspiration rather than enemies. This matter can't be solved by a book or some petition. It will require change of mind and change of the entire industry as we know it today.

Erik has a valid point. By the way; Google invested those $200 million in a Texas wind farm. It's the eleventh renewable energy investment the company has made since 2010.


By Michael Eddington on Jan 11, 2013

Paper is indeed renewable, but a certain percentage of harvesting is done in old growth forests, even when using “ sustainable” certified material. This is loss of an eco-system, and it is not/cannot be replaced with reforestation. Moreover, newly planted trees are often genetically modified to grow faster. These monoculture plantations can greatly increase water consumption and result in faster nutrient depletion and increase salinity and acidity of the soil. There is an environmental impact to using more paper, and we as the print industry can recognize this and do better.

I think its perfectly acceptable to challenge Google’s own environmental record, and there are certainly valid points made in "The Value of Print", but the print industry does a disservice to itself when in own environmental impact is washed over. And lets try to imagine having this discussion via an analog print process.


By Bryan Yeager on Jan 11, 2013

I agree with many of the comments above. Perhaps if Mr. Makin and his organization spent more time helping its members transform and diversify their companies and less time trying to gin up the wrong type of publicity, the industry would not find itself in the precarious position it's currently in. I'm sure Larry and Sergey got a good laugh out of this press release; then again they're probably too busy trying to innovate and change the world to bother with it.


By John Clifford on Jan 14, 2013


You actually get no argument from me that printed forms are terrible compared to electronic forms. However, that is a side argument to the idea that printing is "evil."

Print is still one of the best ways to do marketing, there is no "electronic" alternative in packaging, and the reality is that the print industry has cleaned up immensely over the past couple of decades. We have low VOC inks and solvents and are a leader in recycling.


By Stan Najmr on Jan 15, 2013

It was not my intention to start a debate about where we can find print.I also do not want to talk about “evil print” or how print is getting cleaner or how it saves trees. My main concern is that Printing Industries of America bark on the wrong tree. Instead of thinking how to utilize this opportunity to increase the business we are asked to block Google instead. That is wrong. Internet represents an excellent business opportunity for the printing industry but so far only few printers took full advantage of it. Those who did are doing fine today.

Still every day new developments from digital communications open new ways for the printing industry. I would imagine Printing Industries of America bringing them to printers. PIA should educate and inspire. I thought someone from PIA would explain to us how blocking of Google would help the printing business.


By Joel Salus on Jan 17, 2013

Whining and complaining about Google's "Paperless Office" initiative is absolutely ridiculous, if not a total waste of time. Offices that "go paperless" will do so because of process-efficiency and enhanced/increased employee-productivity; the "environmental" issue, right or wrong, is, to me, a "who really cares about that" issue. Mr. Malkin (and the PIA) should find more productive things to do with his time.



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